Obey, Love, Be Ready

By Ken Asel

A Reading from Romans 13:1-14

1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; 4 for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authoritya does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. 6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is due them — taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.

8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Meditation

In the 13th chapter of Romans, St. Paul focuses on three different messages for the people of Rome. First is the obligation of every Christian to obey the authorities of the state. Followers of Jesus have no right to punish or to ignore the civil government. It was once said that when Thomas Cranmer was burnt at the stake in Queen Mary’s attempt to reestablish Roman Catholicism in England, the archbishop was said to have been so loyal to the monarch that he most likely agreed with his sentence. Though we don’t know St. Paul’s opinion on his own sentence, even as he awaited his own execution, he speaks to the Romans of the obligations all Christians have to obey rulers. The second teaching in Chapter 13, however, takes us in a different direction, saying, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” Love those whom you meet, and only then can all else fall into place. The third expectation is that Christians must be ready, as the second coming of Christ is about to be fulfilled. So love faithfully, as a new order will soon replace all we have experienced before.

Obedience, love, readiness. Do these characterize our churches?

Several years back in a delightful film, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt spend an evening in conversation around an open fire remarking how no one goes to church any more. Perhaps. It seems that way sometimes, as congregations dig ourselves out of the effects of the pandemic and the toll it has taken on our churches. Presiding Bishop Curry, in Love Is the Way, observes that this moment in American history is a deeply moral moment… and a path forward. He invites us to reflect on what we have inherited these past few years and what is to come. He urges us to renew and manifest our faith once more during these moral times by becoming witnesses “to our faith that we live in a world where human kindness, compassion, and justice for all will prevail, because that is God’s way.” If we commit to the way of love, those who have left might find us once more.

(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest from the Diocese of Wyoming. Devvie and he have been married for over 30 years and reside on the Front Range.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Karnataka Central – The (united) Church of South India
Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, Irving, Texas

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